US Government Plans to Stop Providing Free COVID Treatments in 2023

A photo of an open package of Paxlovid on a wooden table. A yellow plastic container with white pills lies next to it, some pills are spilled on the table.

Despite the pandemic still raging, the Department of Health and Human Services is planning to stop supplying free COVID treatments in 2023.

Paxlovid, a Pfizer pill, was distributed for free among nearly 6 million Americans by the federal government during the first years of the pandemic. It prevents such complications from COVID as being hospitalized or dying, and, according to a study by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, may reduce the risk of developing Long COVID.

The bulk price of the Paxlovid purchased by the government comprised $530 for a course, but when the drug hits the private market later this year its cost will soar.

The government’s decision to stop footing the bill will affect the least affluent groups, the uninsured, and people with disabilities who can’t afford the drug. Since Paxlovid and other COVID treatments cannot be covered by Medicare before their full approval by the FDA, the decision to stop providing free pills will also significantly affect the senior citizens’ access to the drug. Black and Hispanic citizens who have already been much less likely to receive Paxlovid than white patients according to this 2022 CDC study, may experience even bigger challenges with accessing the treatment commercially.

—Sasha Kurlenkova